(References at the end of the Text).
This section is a continuation of Part 3, Section 1 and is written by 2 of our journalists with additional information and insights provided by other members of the International Outsider into the excesses and often criminal behavior of the Intelligence Service (IS) and the Police. At all times we verify our information and ensure that it will stand any scrutiny, including that required by the law.
As we said in the last section, we will go further into the roles played by the IS and the Police in the everyday lives of ‘The Outsiders’, those members of the population whose abode is the streets, living 24/7 in the open, subject to the vagaries of the weather and the forces of law and order. They exist with the constant threat of intimidation and harassment from the authorities because though they can run, in reality there are few places to hide which the powers that be do not know so unless they move areas, they will be located. Added to this is the fact that since so many of them are compromised either through having a criminal record, being sought in connection with criminal acts or because they do not have legal documentation like Asylum papers or an Identity Card, they will happily inform the authorities if asked on most topics even if it indirectly incriminates them so as to protect themselves from the threat of arrest and conviction. Though they will stand by each other and to a degree help if it is needed, their loyalty is skin deep and they will throw anyone to the wolves if it is to their advantage.(In future parts of The Outsiders, we will examine the roles of the Immigration Service-Home Affairs and the Court System). Life on the street is far from easy with the daily battle to survive and acquire both food and whatever is needed to keep the addictions most are prone to under control. The number of street people competing for the same minimal slice of the cake means that fights both verbal and physical often break out. With the added stress of a tight financial environment due only in part to the measures taken to contain the pandemic threat, they are definitely used to economic hardship since the 2007/2008 meltdown which has still not bounced back fully and are permanently on the lookout for new opportunities to make a living.
Life on the street is far from easy with the daily battle to survive and acquire both food and whatever is needed to keep the addictions most are prone to under control.....”
One set of street dwellers are the rubbish collectors/recyclers who are ever present with their trolleys loaded with plastics, cardboard and any saleable or recyclable items they may have found or collected from rubbish bins and that which is dumped by the side of the road. They are referred to in South Africa as the ‘malala pipes’ or bad pipes because many live in the underground drainage systems and sewers especially those found at shopping malls and major intersections. Far from being places one would not wish to enter, they are often well-furnished with beds, cooking facilities including gas bottles stolen beforehand, fridges ,TV’s, and other items ranging from electronic equipment to generators and more. They are often used to store stolen or otherwise acquired items until they can safely be moved on to the next in line in the sales process or until a buyer appears, which seems to be quite often as the ‘malala pipes’ will put the word out that they have certain goods for sale. They also provide a safe storage facility for the street drug dealers to keep their products since the drug dealers prefer to keep very little on their person in case they are searched by the police or K9 units who permanently keep a watchful eye on them. Do the police and IS know about them and their underground havens? Of course, they know the situation fully but apart from the sporadic raid to assuage the public by being seen to perform their duties, they leave them alone for the most part only questioning them for information when necessary, or collecting items for themselves under the pretext of evaluating ownership (i.e., is it stolen?). There are regular collections of the goods stored underground, usually in daylight so as to not draw attention, and they are sold in many ways ranging from legitimate shops buying underpriced stock to street markets and those buyers who ‘order’ certain items in advance of their appearance. These ‘malala pipes’ also transport goods of all kinds hidden in the mass of recyclable material in broad daylight often under the noses of the police or Security services (especially if the items are shoplifted or stolen on the street through street robberies/muggings) until it is safe for them to deposit them underground or hand them over to the thief. In this way, they are an integral part of life on the street and can earn quite well which ensures them an income if times are hard. The purely legitimate recycling of rubbish that they daily undertake earns them on average between ZAR 150 to 250 per day which puts them on a ‘salary’ of ZAR 6,000.00 per month, often more than those working behind the till in a supermarket or other low paid ‘Mac ‘jobs. But because of their ‘work’ (they are mostly unkempt and unappealing), they are shunned and treated with disdain by the public at large who never account for the fact that without them, the collection of rubbish by the Council contractors is inadequate on a day to day basis and there would be mountains of rotting garbage with all the attendant health risks to cope with. Interestingly, the economic meltdown due to the restrictions imposed to contain the pandemic has led to many more young South African’s becoming rubbish collectors as a way to survive, which has led to increasing confrontations with the existing ones who are around 60% composed of nationals from other African countries as they compete for a diminishing slice of the pie.Without them, the recycling companies proclaiming loudly their magnificent achievements in ‘safeguarding the environment’ would have their impact and public image cut quite appreciably and would have to come up with other ways to ensure the collection of recyclable materials.
For the people of the street, there are always opportunities to earn a living even if in the main, they are illegal and can lead to arrest and imprisonment. However, it must be said that short periods of incarceration are viewed almost like a holiday since all needs are catered for from food, clothing, accommodation, washing facilities and even illicit substances (if you have the money). And except if a crime carries severe penalties, the police and judiciary will often in tandem reduce the length of the sentence for two main reasons. First, due to the fact that in return for information, the police and to a lesser extent the IS will ‘protect’ the informer from harsh penalties (unless it is unavoidable) and second the prisons in South Africa are overcrowded and at bursting point. However there are exceptions to the unwritten rules and apart from the high profile cases, they involve the ‘drug mules’ and their contraband among others.
Having been given the consignment of drugs, they board their return flight and head home with their illicit goods in the luggage though some will try to keep them on their person if the amount is not too large... ”
Drug ‘mules’ are recruited from the ever-changing pool of street people, who in return for ‘importing/smuggling’ the illegal substances will receive three things. First, they will be housed in a motel/guest house for a maximum of 10 days and clothing bought, food, a phone and narcotics/alcohol is supplied so they can relax in a safe environment in preparation for their trip and be made presentable. This only happens if they can obtain a legitimate identity card and passport so they can travel either for business or pleasure, the two main reasons used to justify the flight. They are then given a ticket to fly to their destination and a prepaid credit card (with a limited amount on it, just enough for daily survival once they arrive) and the details of their pre-booked accommodation at their destination. The preferred destinations are Brazil, Venezuela and other South American countries with Europe (France, Spain and Portugal) and Asia, and on occasion if called for, other African nations are included to facilitate the transport of the drugs. Upon arrival, they do some of the usual tourist things and wait patiently for the drugs to be delivered to them. They are observed but not contacted, often not until the last day of their stay by the person/s delivering the drugs to them (this is done to not draw attention or compromise those doing the delivery). Having been given the consignment of drugs, they board their return flight and head home with their illicit goods in the luggage though some will try to keep them on their person if the amount is not too large. Amounts vary but are from two kilograms upwards depending on the substance being carried. The three most common items being transported are cocaine, heroin and ephedrine, which is used in the manufacture of crystal meth. Upon arrival at the airport after the flight home, they are met by their drug dealer (and his friends to ensure they get hold of the drug ‘mule’). The dealer has large amounts of cash ready for any problems that may arise with the authorities and a tame lawyer on speed dial to facilitate a smooth transition from a problem to the end of the problem. But this is for them only, not the mules. The drug smuggler/mule will then hand over the goods and be paid once they have left the airport and are in a location deemed safe by the dealer. The pay is mostly in the range of ZAR 10,000.00 plus(USD 650.00) andthey get to keep the clothes and the phone with the bonus of 20 plus days of paid holiday. The street person doing this is fully aware of the penalties inherent if they are caught but will take the chance for the money they will earn and the ‘rest’ period in the guest house/motel. Seldom will they keep the money earned for longer than a week spending wildly and living the high life as ostentatiously as they can,since being on the street, they seize every opportunity to show the others on the street how they have succeeded. Then they are ready to do it again. The IS and the police are aware of this and will watch and wait before moving in to obtain as much information as they can and arrest as many of those involved as possible
But in truth, they are themselves responsible for the arrest of at least two of the ‘mules’ as they will give precise information to the IS and the police regarding flight details and the ‘mules’ name and full identity...”
In an excellent book written by the Drug Enforcement Agency and Central Intelligence Agency working for several decades in the Golden Triangle (Burma, Thailand etc.regarding heroin), South America (Bolivia, Columbia etc. regarding cocaine), and Mexico and the Middle East (regarding hashish), alongside writers of other books by drug ‘importer/smugglers’ like Howard Marks , a Welsh drug smuggler with a sense of humour who spent time in prison, a point is made that still holds true today. Given the vast profits that the drug trade engenders, the pure unalloyed code of conduct that drug ‘importers’ all follow is that out of every five ‘mules’ that go through Customs, they expect only two to get through safely (if three get through, it is a red letter day). But in truth, they are themselves responsible for the arrest of at least two of the ‘mules’ as they will give precise information to the IS and the police regarding flight details and the ‘mules’ name and full identity. This ensures that they are free to carry on with business as the IS and police will be able to publicly show they are doing their jobs and can then sell on the drugs seized. We witnessed a drug ‘mule’ in court contest the quantity he was charged with ‘importing’ as he categorically demanded and kept repeatingthat the quantity he had was 2.5 kg of cocaine, not the 400 g he was charged with carrying.He wanted the charges amended to show the full amount. After a brief exchange between the prosecutor and the police officers present for the trial, the prosecutor spoke deferentially to the magistrate and the case was dismissed. So this ‘importer’ walked free rather than the court having to allow the counsel for his defense to demand the whereabouts of the remaining 2.1 kg of cocaine from those with the legal remit to seize it in the first place. Though technically, Customs are in charge of law enforcement with regards to the illegal substances seized from passengers upon arrival at the airports, they seldom appear in court leaving that to the police and can be overridden at any point by the IS whose remit allows them to take over a case or operations if required, though they prefer to remain in the background, watching and giving orders. Because of our interaction with the street people over a long time, we gained their trust as they fully understood we were no threat to them and we came to be known and accepted by many of the drug dealers and criminals, which allowed us to obtain verified information concerning all the players and how the game unfolded. The drug ‘mules’ will attempt to evade the drug dealer waiting at the airport to collect them and sometimes but not often, they succeed. At this point, they will sell the drugs on to someone else and will then experience one of two things. Either they are paid or they are ripped off and if not overly careful about who they sell the drugs to, they are in some cases ‘disappeared’ permanently. We came to know some unfortunates (we called them this because greed and ego tripped them up and prevented them thinking clearly) very well and were horrified by their having ripped off the drug dealer. Apart from one of them who was smart enough to vanish with his money, the rest met very violent and unpleasant ends. The drug dealers’ network extends globally with information being paid for in cash, drugs or further information from different cartels and groups of allied dealers so to be able to vanish off the face of the earth is not easy for the drug ‘mule’ who has stolen the drugs for himself. Additionally, because you have proved you are not loyal and trustworthy, it is not a good move to change sides and life expectancy normally takes a nose dive. The level of violence associated with the drugs trade is commensurate with the stupendous amounts of money it brings in.
The importation of large quantities of drugs involves a whole other strata of the criminal fraternity and seldom involves street people as those who move in these circles do so with almost complete impunity. Though we were able to gain information on these high level importers, they are very good at keeping their business under wraps so it was extremely difficult and unbelievably dangerous to gain admission to their circles as they react instantly and with maximum violence to any perceived threat, whether it proves to be real or not. They seldom face charges and if they do, the likelihood of getting bail after being arrested is either good or a given depending on who you know or which group/cartel you are part of. One of our journalists was imprisoned in Modderbee Prison in Johannesburg at the end of the last decade on trumped up charges in an effort by the authorities to scare him into keeping quiet about information he was party to. It did not work and he was released after a few months. While inside, he met a Russian Mafioso who had been arrested and charged with the importation of half a ton of cocaine, hidden in a container brought by sea. He was very relaxed as he was awaiting his appeal for bail, which he expected to go through in the next eight days. He said it had been set at ZAR 500 thousand and, once released, there was a clearly planned operation to take him out of the country and the continent within a few hours. The problem had arisen because the Customs official who had taken his ‘cut’ had not shared or paid the others under him, but this ‘problem’ had been solved with the demise of the official and his immediate replacement by a more pliable one. There were no problems that he knew of with officials from the other ‘authorities’ as they played the game and fully understood what was at stake. Greed kicks in everywhere that there is business to be done, especially in the drugs trade with the immense amounts of ready hard cash produced on an industrial scale. And if temptation is not enough of a motivator, then the openly implied threat of the ‘elimination of the problem’ usually convinces the recalcitrant individual to move sideways out of the way by changing their position and duties in the system or retiring early. The choices are distinctly limited as is the time given to decide.
This one involves the drug dealers who ‘launder’ money through the shop as income legally gained from the sale of its stock, giving the ‘owner’ a percentage of the money legitamised in return for the service provided...”
Street people come in all shapes and guises sometimes refusing to acknowledge their roots on the street especially if they come from the Indian subcontinent. The ‘owners’ of the local corner stores or ‘spaza shops’ as they are known in South Africa are mainly from Bangladesh and though most were recruited from the ‘streets’ in their home country, they go to great lengths to dissuade this fact from entering any discussion about their origins. However, over and beyond the normal state of being a shopkeeper and struggling to make a few cents profit on the items they stock, some but certainly not all of them have a second fiddle to their income stream. This one involves the drug dealers who ‘launder’ money through the shop as income legally gained from the sale of its stock, giving the ‘owner’ a percentage of the money legitamised in return for the service provided. Most of the shop keepers provide employment to the street people who act as security (watching intently to prevent shop lifting, a continuous occurrence) and cleaning, filling shelves, and providing the muscle to unload the stock when it is bought. Though the pay is very low, in the region of ZAR 2500.00 plus per month, they are fed, get to take the food so past its sell by date as to be unsaleable and they have a semi permanent income, a rare occurrence in the life of a street person. Often they will sleep in the shop after it closes for the night(to provide protection from thieves) so they are at the very least not as vulnerable as being on the street. The Police and IS are aware of this and receive both information and remuneration from the shopkeepers. The street person employed by them often providesextra information in order not to face charges in relation to crimes committed or the legal paperwork needed to prove their identity, which most ofthem do not have.
Like all other countries, the IS in South Africa liaise with other law enforcement agencies worldwide including Interpol when necessary. And yes, they do benefit financially where appropriate, as it is clear from the sheer scale of the problem that their reach and competence is either limited or they are inept and facilitate the drug market to continue in return for a share of the huge profits produced. An excellent example of this is the CIA/Oliver North scandal in the United States where the CIA funded ‘black ops’ and right wing paramilitaries in Nicaragua via the sale of cocaine and arms to Iran so that no financially embarrassing questions arose for the government. Until they were caught out! As they say, the truth emerges in the end no matter what measures are taken to keep it hidden. But in South Africa, with almost total control over the media (and to some extent the Judiciary), the ability of the Press to engage in open dialogue and engage in investigative journalism about the actions of the upholders and enforcers of Law and Order is limited, apart from the sporadic high profile case because the transgressions are so blatant that it is not possible to hide or explain them away.
Here on this continent, public protest seldom leads to action (only platitudes) unless it comes to the point of complete social discord and the military have to step in to prevent collapse. In most cases, the military will back the status quo as they are too compromised through corruption and have too much to lose.
So often, they will agree to whatever proposition is put to them by the IS and the police so as not to endure the sheer hell of psychological, mental, and physical withdrawal..”
The effect of having 24/7 availability to purchase drugs, alcohol, gambling etc., on the street people further deepens their dependency on whatever they are addicted to and keeps them bound up in a cycle of unending degradation and reliance on those controlling the provision of these as well as the police and IS who can ‘lean’ on them at any time. As with all addictions no matter which one, they will face ‘cold turkey’ upon arrest because in South Africa, most prisons do not provide alternatives to wean them off their addiction gently. So often, they will agree to whatever proposition is put to them by the IS and the police so as not to endure the sheer hell of psychological, mental, and physical withdrawal. All the NGO’s, NPO’s and charities though well-intentioned, seldom have either the ability (through access to high level expensive legal representation) or the political clout, to gain effective restitution. (We will examine the so-called ‘charitable’ sector in a further article in this series and the way they behave towards those most in need of help). For the person living on the street, the length of time involved in seeking justice mostly dissuades them from continuing since the daily need to survive is constant and does not allow them the luxury of long term actions, which can be drawn out over years by unscrupulous lawyers acting on behalf of those defending actions brought against them for a quite moderate cost. As we witnessed on so many occasions, the ‘wronged’ street person can either be intimidated by a show of ‘power’ or bought off for very small amounts of hard cash, which they will gladly receive as it is seen as a success of sorts since they can usually live for a few days without the need to hustle to survive. Rather than involve the police and insurance companies, motorists who have hit a street person with their vehicle will often pay them a few hundred Rand to drop the matter and leave even if the motorist was clearly at fault and there are independent witnesses. The person on the street knows full well that as regards the implementation of the law in respect to protecting them, it can and will in most cases, be overturned in favour of whoever is the adversary, if that person has the means let alone the contacts. It must be noted that the judiciary in South Africa though unbiased like all members of the human race unfortunately judge those before them in the court by appearance and diction and the unfortunate truth is that most of the street people have a very limited education and all too often appear to be shabby in their dress. In most of the countries they originate from, the access to education is predicated by the ability to pay for it and few of them grew up with the money available to pay for it.
People who are living on the street experience all the usual psychological, emotional, mental and physical states that we all are prone to undergoing if we are suddenly in the position of having absolutely nothing but the clothes we stand in and nowhere to turn to for help.They understand that their very survival depends on immediate actions because this state is their ‘normal’, so though they plan on the hoof all the time (unless heavily under the influence of an addictive substance which brings forth long-winded fantasies), they seize on the plans made by others like the drug dealers and con men to provide a means of income. Since they often live on very little, daily incomes are in the range of ZAR 40 to 60 a day (the US dollar equivalent is 3 to 4 dollars a day), the moral imperative that retains the fabric of society that we all adhere to (usually in a way that allows us to marginally ‘bend’ the rules but which has a small impact, or so we think, since like all minor moves, it quickly adds up when they are all counted) is torn asunder and a proven way to earn a living is chosen, leaving all thoughts of ethical considerations behind. Though this is pure pragmatism, it does not help society to run smoothly but the alternatives, which are always touted like the charities and NGOs etc., tend to be very temporary fixes at best and often end up with the street person in a worse position than before. We will examine this in depth in a future article in a continuation of this series.
For the person on the street, this enforces the stereotypical view they have of law enforcement and further cements the belief that many hold of being a ‘victim’, giving further justification to their actions..”
The drug dealers, the fraudsters, the con men using other bank accounts and identity cards are all following defined patterns of behavior that have been honed over centuries because it is fair to say that beyond the advent of the technology we use today, all the criminal acts are based on an ongoing theme throughout history, where those on the margins of society (in most cases through circumstance rather than deliberate fault)will use their innate drive to survive to provide both the impetus and justification for their actions. The problem that arises is from the same drive that impels the Police and Intelligence Service to ‘catch’ those performing criminal acts when the saying ‘it takes a criminal to know one’ becomes the norm and is the blurring of lines between those found guilty of these ‘crimes’ and those apprehending them because the methods and practice employed by these upholders of the law, often pass the boundary of what is and what is not acceptable, let alone legal. This does not lead to the public to have any trust in either of these services, in fact quite the opposite as the majority of the public will avoid dealing with them if they can preferring to reach a solution by other means. For the person on the street, this enforces the stereotypical view they have of law enforcement and further cements the belief that many hold of being a ‘victim’, giving further justificationto their actions.
The second part of this article is a continuation of The Outsiders Part 3 Section 1 and was written by the same author.It is a very open and candid look at how the IS operates in various areas it is actively involved in.
Q: Welcome back Deep Throat, we received an astonishing amount of mail concerning your story and I guess many people are waiting impatiently to know how it ends.
A: Impatiently, or with concern?
A: Obviously a lot of people became rich by these frauds and are still becoming rich so they are quite itchy when information is published.
Q: Do you worry about that?
A: No, never, once you engage in these activities you are taking risks and you are well aware of the consequences. Fear is useless and will not give anything to you but you must not be stupid either as the danger is very real. You have to take drastic precautions to ensure your survival.
Q: Can you develop more on that?
A: It is not really the subject but yes I can. You have to understand that once you have interacted with the Intelligence Services that these people have absolutely no notion of morality whatsoever. Due to the nature of their ‘work’, they adopt the same attitudes, manners and tactics that the criminals they are supposedly fighting employ (but in fact they are the same as them and in many ways, much worse).
Once you have those records you must not sit on them either, first reflex even before taking the next breath, upload the whole lot...”
At the very beginning, the Intelligence Service will try to impress you by revealing to you things about yourself that will make you think” Impossible! How do they know that?” It is a very old game. But if you stop one second and think about it, why do they need you if they already know everything and of course with time, you understand how the game is played. They will ask you not to “lie” because “they will know”. To some extent it’s true but their method of getting information is not harder than picking up gossip and is certainly not a feat of any sort. So my first advice is to lie as much as you can to them and if you cannot lie, then tell them the least possible about yourself. For instance I gave them an absolutely fake CV that I knew would take a few months for them to double check.
Q: Is that not defeating the purpose?
A: I did not have the intention to have any kind of long-term relationship with these people and I had past experience of them too. From the very beginning I recorded each and every single one of our conversations. Unfortunately, I lack visual footage except of the vehicle and the driver that came and pick me up at the local shopping centre. The only one that I nailed with extensive footage is the Colonel who was my direct contact and as it turned out, this became one of the best moves I made as I would find out later that though of a lower rank, he was the rotten tomato. Once you have those records you must not sit on them either, first reflex even before taking the next breath, upload the whole lot.
A: That depends on you and the information because if ever you publish it in the country that hosts the Service you are targeting, then you must send it immediately to another country. Upload your data if necessary on a public channel on YouTube. Sooner or later, you will be grateful to yourself for having done so.
Q: To return back to our story, you have by now done your homework and are ready to meet the ring leaders.
A: Some of them yes. But just before that, I made a series of mistakes so that to this day, I wonder how I could have been so naïve to do so. Last time I told you that the man I codenamed ‘The Queen of Sheeba” approached me on several occasions but I was introduced to him by someone I already knew. Someone I trusted, it’s a precision to say that trust is a big word but what I can say is that I rate this person at a certain level of reliability. During a chat, I told him that the Queen of Sheeba was far from being honest. He then told me that he was aware that ‘Sheeba’ was somehow involved in a dodgy airline ticket scam but was somewhat innocent compared to a massive cross-border fraud that was going on. He then explained that as ‘Sheeba’ was could be considered as some kind of friend and since he even personally quite liked the guy, he found it difficult to believe that he could be associated with such a high level of fraud. He asked me to at least to give ‘Sheeba’ a chance to pull out. ‘Sigh’. I accepted.
Q: But wait a minute, if you did that, then the case is over and you undermined your own efforts.
A: Yes, I know. But let’s stop a minute. In our past conversation, I told you that the aim of the Intelligence Services is to collect information and they do that at any cost without any consideration of the human tragedies associated with doing so. I asked myself the question, what was my aim? Was this aim worth becoming a monster too, without human values? And if there was a chance to end all that without damage would it not be better? I gave him 24 hours not the 48 hours that he was asking for and, as it turned out, ‘Sheeba’ went offline and no one was able to get in contact with him. He saw me first and was warned only when we came back from our trip next to the border of the country.
Q: Hectic. You were taking both groups for a ride and maybe a ‘friend’ could put you in even more trouble yet you went despite all this?
A: Yes, we took a car to Vereeniging, a small town where the meeting was scheduled to take place. Sheeba and a Congolese citizen were there to ensure that the bank accounts that would receive the package were up and running and there were several boys on standby to extract the money as soon it hit the account. Also present was the driver of South African origin and another person unidentified to this day.
Q: Was the Intelligence Service aware of the field trip?
A: Yes. One day before this happened; I met the Colonel and made him listen live to the phone call while a woman working as a contact for the wannabe hackers was updating me.
Q: Did they cover the operation?
I told you that one key member of the action team could not participate as he was completely blasted by drugs. ...”
A: Never, you are on your own, they won’t lift a single finger, remember you are not part of them, no matter how faithful you are and no matter what are the services you provided you are always considered as a mercenary of some sort, someone presumably only motivated by money. And to this effect essentially expendable because when we arrived at the meeting place, you could see immediately that the players were different.
Q: How different?
A: Yet another breed. They were certainly not your basic Yahoo boys. As I said, Sheeba was outside, another one was Asian but I could not determine from which country, could have been either China or Korea, but I cannot be sure. Inside the house there were two people directly working inside the bank that was to be attacked, both Africans residing in the neighbouring country. One was the Assistant Bank Manager and the other one, was the most important and obviously the VIP guest on this day. He was the top inside man working inside the bank’s data vault and was himself an Assistant Manager. Young around 28 years old and since he had dreads, they called him ‘Rasta’ but as he was drinking like a fish, I doubt he had anything to do with the Rastafarian culture. The owner of the house was a South African national.
Q: Is drinking normal in this kind of situation? Considering what kind of endeavour it was, would it not be preferable to be sober?
A: One would think so, but if you recall, I told you that one key member of the action team could not participate as he was completely blasted by drugs. Narcotics are continuously used for multiple reasons. First and foremost, control of the user and I think explanations are not needed. Secondly, alcohol and drugs suppress the fear in a business where the authorities have your name on their wish list and you are pretty sure that your partners will drop you at the least problem, will try to cheat you on your percentage, not pay you or at the worst, get rid of you if ever they deemed it necessary. I was shown by a Colonel of Interpol, the picture of the room of a Russian citizen arrested in the Republic of South Africa. It was a control center full of PC’s and all kinds of peripherals, the dream of any geek, a true control room for the ‘man in the chair”. This person was doing millions from fraud on credit cards and bank transfers for a Nigerian ring and was hooked on drugs and so was paid mainly in drugs.
Q: This meeting was in some way like your interview. How did it unfold?
A: Yes I had the honour to be judged by the semi-drunken ‘Rasta’ who turned out to be a complete idiot by the way. It may sound quite a radical judgement but the man had no clue at all. He was extremely impressed when I used the Windows command prompt to send an ftp which I really had to do as I had to transfer a file and I did not have the software to do so. To be fair, he asked me some very relevant questions but I understood very rapidly that someone must have written a script for him with a few questions on it. I knew that because when I wanted to produce my answers, he could not follow them and had absolutely no clue about the software I was referring too. That turned out to be the easy part. Things got a bit more complicated with the other players when one proposed that we accelerate the pace and conducted the heist in the following days. The plan implied that I cross the border along with them but that was obviously out of question and it took some effort to persuade them to stick to the initial plan, which was to transfer the money from a location in the Republic of South Africa.
Q: And that was it?
A: More or less everything was settled, from the day of the action as well as the percentage each participant will receive. One has to understand that fraud is fairly easy, not because of the flaws of the security systems put in place by banks or Financial Institutions that were targeted, but mainly due to the rampant corruption at all levels from the simple teller to the highest managing directors. Easy money has an immense power of attraction and it is very curious how most of these fraudsters do not consider themselves as criminals, even though they will not hesitate to badly manhandle someone they consider to be a traitor of some sort.
Q: Like you?
A: Obviously and I had it constantly in mind, believe me.
Q: And that was it?
A: More or less, the rest according to me at this moment should be easy and straight forward and soon I would have done a preliminary report. Then things would go rather quickly and my part was played, the rest belonged to the authorities to attend to.
Q: Was it not the case?
A: Not really, when I returned back, I lost no time and contacted the Colonel handling my case. What followed happened quite quickly, the bank was warned thus closing any possibility of action. What followed, however, was quite a blur since no one was arrested (though the Rasta and the accomplices lost their jobs). No charges were brought against anyone.
Q: How is that even possible?
This money was pocketed by our friends from the Intelligence Service and no one heard about it again...”
A: You have to understand that there is an opportunist at every moment. The game was not totally over. The bank still had to be generous with the ones who prevented the fraud and this reward was also juicy. This money was pocketed by our friends from the Intelligence Service and no one heard about it again.
Q: Were you paid?
A: Yes of course, I am not a person you want to cheat in payment due, whether you are from the ‘services’ or not. It was peanuts but 2000 dollars was still good to take,more so considering what I was to uncover.
Q: The plot thickens?
A: The reward given for the hijack could be the end of the story and strangely I was led to believe that. However, if you remember, I told you that I was in for a long-term investigation, something that would extend for years. And that is where the transition of my status to enemy of the state started. One or two weeks passed by and my final report was behind me when I started to hear rumours that I was doing fraud,which did not really bother me. For a start, I had been dwelling with people reputed to do fraud and that was therefore the image associated. Things went worse, stories started to pop up from almost everywhere and the situation really started to impede my everyday living as strange and incomprehensible things starts to happen on the internet.
Q: Can you be more specific in terms of what kind of strange things?
Q: Okay the ‘enemy of the state part’.
A: As you know, I am not a novice in terms of information technology without being a genius either. But my mail started to fail, many did not arrive at their destinations and the ones I received seemed selected. Credits cards started to work on and off, sometimes hundreds of Rands simply disappeared from the account, which was only solved by physically going to the bank and invariably people working there ended up telling you they did not understand how that had happened.
Q: You said that you are not really a novice concerning information technology; a lot of our readers are familiar to this world too. Surely, you could determine if you were hacked?
A: Well I did quite a temporal jump, I should have may be clarified the time scales. Those events took place over a period of several months after I returned back from my trip to Vereeniging meeting the wannabe bank fraudsters. A relatively lengthy amount of time during which I continued to work for the Intelligence Services. A time period where I fully understood (by the way that’s why I went in to start with) their devious way of thinking and their total lack of morality. This Colonel I told you about, I know that he got away with murder. I know also with absolute certainty that when he cannot get his way, he will not hesitate to attempt to destroy your marital relationship by any means possible. I know for instance that when he was unable to extract pressure or revenge on someone, he deliberately sent someone to seduce the wife of the man and let the guy know about it.
Q: That’s horrific!
A: I already told you that if the Hollywood script writers are lacking inspiration and god they are, then they should come to South Africa where they will be more than plentifully satisfied. One time an informer gave him a detailed plan, I mean he drew where a suspicious house was situated even marking it with a Red X and the Colonel managed to storm the neighbouring house!
Q: You cannot be serious?
A: I am unfortunately and though it may appear hilarious, I thought about it and there were onlytwo possible solutions. Either the man is a complete demure which is in the realm of possibilities or he did not do a mistake by allowing the suspects to escape. There is also one thing he said a few times that made me suspicious. He told me many times if he was me, he would have helped the people who were planning the bank heist and kept the money for himself.
Q: He really did?
A: Yes he did. Obviously you will understand that I have no love for the man and one could rapidly conclude that I am exerting some kind of vendetta, so I want to be honest. The fact that he told me that does not prove anything concerning his morality.
Q: How come?
A: It may have meant that it was his thinking or that he was baiting me to find out on what side of the game I was. It is a sick world as I already told you. All of that to tell you that I dwelt with those individuals for a certain amount of time, toolong for my own taste. I received material from them in form of a laptop and a mobile phone; these were materials that were seized from various criminal affairs. I notably received during this period, orders to spy on people from the Court which I refused to do. I also was given orders both in person and on encrypted mail to hack several servers.
Q: Did you do it?
A: No and that was not even a morality issue. I knew if things went haywire, no one would cover those actions. The strange events started to happen when I kept my distance from them.
Q: How does someone get out of such trouble?
The Queen of Sheeba and the Colonel himself. And their friendship kept on being public even during social events, which is a very strange attitude even if you have turned a past criminal to work for you....”
A: I will attempt to explain but before that, let me give to you a surprising conclusion to this bank heist comedy. A few weeks after the bank had been informed, who became the best of friends? The Queen of Sheeba and the Colonel himself. And their friendship kept on being public even during social events, which is a very strange attitude even if you have turned a past criminal to work for you. This affair is far from being simple, in fact following the thread, I uncovered a whole organisation in Pretoria pretending to be Anonymous and controlling a group of University Students committing fraud. In Cape Town, a few friends and I found ourselves inside a multinational cabala of high profile criminals involving top level diplomats, a ring which was pumping money illegally out from this country. That being said, let me attempt to answer your question. How does someone get out of this kind of trouble? Astonishingly, quite easily. Find yourself a good lawyer and threaten to go public. I will constantly repeat, the Intelligence Service is a creature of the abyss, feeding on your fears and of potential skeletons in the closet. Once you shed light on them, like vampires they fade, they even disappear after paying you,though not happily of course. That applies to anyone, they always have more to lose than you; the alternative is to live the rest of your life as a Pariah. For my part I knew I was hacked. So I made the system even easier for them so that they could hack, content in their exploits. On the other hand I had another system on which I was doing my legitimate business and ignored by them, I think you have such honey pots here at the International Outsider on your machines. I did the same thing. To this day, I am followed by the same rumours but they know as well as I do that the game is over only when the lady has finished singing.
Q: You can still lose then?
A: According to them, an ideal scenario is the one where no one wins. They cannot bank that one day all the information and records will go out clearly, irrelevant of whether I am here to spread it or not. I have also gone to some extent to make it crystal clear to them that it is far from being a bluff. Obviously I can lose but then too, everyone can lose.
Q: Thank you I have the impression we will meet again.
A: My pleasure.